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FTA redux

August 13th, 2003

A few days ago former Liberal hatchetman Michael Baume had an opinion piece (subscription required ?) in the Fin, denouncing ‘scaremongers’ who suggested that the US wanted to scrap the Pharmaceuticals Benefit Scheme as part of the proposed Free Trade Agreement, and quoting a string of official denials.

In today’s Fin, I read that the US is demanding ‘reform’ of the PBS. Anyone who has experienced reform in the last decade will be able to fill in the details.

This kind of dishonesty is par for the course in the pro-FTA camp. Alan Oxley of AUSTA has adopted precisely the same rhetorical slide. As I pointed out in my debate with Wolfgang Kasper onthis topic a few months ago

The Austra submission to the Senate Inquiry into the FTA denies any intention to ‘dismantle’ the scheme, but notes, ominously, that ‘there are features of the scheme that discourage investment by drug companies in Australia. Austa supports measures in the FTA which encourage more investment and job growth in Australia’. It is safe to conclude that the ‘features’ seen as discouraging investment and job growth are the same ones that provide Australians with access to affordable drugs.

What surprises me is not the dishonesty, but the belief that this kind of thing will take people in, when the facts are so easily available.

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  1. August 13th, 2003 at 17:41 | #1

    It does appear to be “subscription required”.

    I believe the PBS is not the only thing slated for “reform” under the FTA: I think the US also objects to our “single-desk” arrangements for marketing primary produce overseas. If the FTA does go through, the only good I can see coming out of it is that, in the long run, it might put paid to the delusions of grandeur of a small, second world commodity exporter with aspirations to first world status. Maybe I should make that second and a halfth world.

  2. derrida derider
    August 13th, 2003 at 22:12 | #2

    Yea, you’re right about their foolishness. They’d be much better just saying straight out “We’ll pay more for drugs, but it’ll be worth it for the benefits elsewhere” – except then they might have to specify the benefits.

  3. August 14th, 2003 at 16:52 | #3

    there’s an oversupply of facts going around, John — not much value in that sector… far more worth in world-class packaging, catchy phrases and general bluster…

    bend over, Australia, and take your medicine

  4. August 16th, 2003 at 01:31 | #4

    Err, wasn’t the “second world” the communist bloc?

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